Thursday, April 17, 2008

Credit Market Turmoil Nearly Over: Bank Chiefs

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

But investors remain unconvinced as bank stocks plummet

(NEW YORK) Richard Fuld, Lloyd Blankfein and John Mack say that the credit- market contraction is winding down. Investors whose bank stocks have plummeted aren't convinced.

Worst is over: (From above onwards), Mr Blankfein, Mr Fuld and MrMack are optimistic

Mr Fuld, chief executive officer of Lehman Brothers Holdings, told shareholders at the firm's annual meeting on Tuesday that the 'the worst is behind us'.

His comments followed similar remarks last week by Goldman Sachs Group's CEO, Mr Blankfein, who told investors that 'we're closer to the end than the beginning' and Mr Mack, Morgan Stanley's chief, who said that the crisis will probably last 'a couple of quarters' longer.

It's not the first time that banking executives expressed optimism that turmoil in the credit markets was contained or approaching an end.

And they were wrong. Total write-downs were about US$97 billion at the end of December and surged to US$181 billion by the end of February.

The world's biggest banks have recorded US$245 billion in asset write-downs and credit losses since the beginning of 2007.

Shareholders need 'more proof before they start believing things are fine again', said Rose Grant, managing director of Eastern Investment Advisors, the money-management unit of Boston-based Eastern Bank, which owns Merrill Lynch shares. Until the firms disclose the full extent of their write-downs and credit losses, 'people are going to sit on the sidelines'.

Investors will be getting a closer look at the magnitude of the ind

ustry's woes this week. JPMorgan Chase, the third biggest US bank by assets, said yesterday that first-quarter profit fell 50 per cent after US$5.1 billion of write-downs and provisions linked to bad home equity loans, financing for leveraged buyouts and sub-prime mortgages.

Merrill, the world's biggest brokerage, reports results today, followed by Citigroup, the largest US bank, tomorrow. All the firms are based in New York.

'Our expectation is for the economic environment to continue to be weak and for the capital markets to remain under stress,' JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said yesterday.

The International Monetary Fund said last week that losses stemming from the US sub-prime mortgage crisis may reach US$945 billion.

The fund also predicted as much as US$90 billion in further losses from potential downgrades of bond insurance companies.

The group estimated that more than US$500 billion of the losses will be related to banks.

The collapse of the sub-prime market in the US has reached its eighth inning or 'maybe top of the ninth', Mr Mack said on April 8, referring to the final period of a baseball game. Europe is in the sixth inning and the market for commercial mortgage securities is 'probably in the fifth', he said.

'If we are in the ninth inning, it's a double-header,' Sanford C Bernstein's Brad Hintz, the third-ranked securities analyst according Institutional Investor magazine, said in a Bloomberg television interview yesterday. 'It's going to take time for the market to settle down after this.'

The optimistic comments by Mr Fuld, Mr Blankfein and Mr Mack echoed those made by Wall Street executives in June 2007.

Christopher O'Meara, former chief financial officer of Lehman, told investors that 'we continue to believe that sub-prime market challenges are and will continue to be reasonably contained'.

Bear Stearns CFO Sam Molinaro said at the time that while declining value of sub-prime bonds was 'a challenge' for the firm, 'it hasn't spilled into other areas of the market'. 'Sub-prime continues to be weak' and yet 'there's very little effect on other credit markets,' David Viniar, the CFO of Goldman, told reporters on a conference call at the time.

Stan O'Neal, Merrill's former chairman and chief executive officer, said that sub-prime defaults were 'reasonably well contained'.

Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis said on June 20 that the housing slump was just about over. 'We're seeing the worst of it,' he said.

Bear Stearns helped trigger the credit contraction after two of its hedge funds, which invested in securities linked to sub-prime mortgages, collapsed in July. The company's fourth- quarter loss of US$854 million was the first in its 85-year history. -- Bloomberg

Banyan Tree May Set Up More Development Funds

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

MANAGER and developer of premium resorts and hotels Banyan Tree Holdings may set up more real estate development funds to support expansion in Japan and the Middle East.

'Our rapid expansion demands relatively large capital injections,' said vice-president of business development Paul Chong yesterday at the Cityscape Asia property conference.

Banyan Tree is creating closed-end funds to meet these needs and 'over the medium term, we hope to apply this strategy to our other growth regions around the world', he said.

Five growth regions were identified - the Americas, southern coastline of the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific.

Details on the potential sizes or investors for the Japan and Middle East funds are not yet available.

Banyan Tree in January set up its first US$400 million Indochina hospitality fund to finance resort development in Hue, Vietnam.

The first closing took place in February and the second round of capital-seeking is now underway.

According to Mr Chong, group chairman Ho Kwon Ping is now in the Middle East for the Indochina fund roadshow, and the company hopes that final closing will take place by the end of the year.

The sub-prime crisis and the resulting credit squeeze do not appear to have dampened investors' interest in the Indochina fund. 'Although there is a global reduction in liquidity, there is still money out there to be invested,' said Mr Chong.

While the Indochina fund is only open to institutional investors, Mr Chong mentioned the possibility of listing it in about seven years' time.

The 280-hectare development in Vietnam will house seven resorts, two of which will be run by Banyan Tree. According to Mr Chong, the group has received '13 or 14 expressions of interest' from international hotel operators for the remaining resorts, and ground-breaking may occur in the middle of the year.

The project costs about US$850 million, and will be funded by both debt and equity.

Banyan Tree further plans to set up a China fund to raise US$500 million to US$700 million for its projects in China.

On prospects for Banyan Tree, Mr Chong said: 'When you find yourself in a global space with no single dominant global player, and you have a more than even chance to be a price maker and not price taker, you have no choice but to go for it. The window of opportunity, I think, will close in around five years or so.'

Banyan Tree's shares closed at $1.32 yesterday, up one cent.

AIDT Unveils $560m India Development Project

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

Venture will consist of an IT SEZ and a residential and commercial part

ASCENDAS India Development Trust (AIDT) has unveiled a $560 million integrated development project in India, the second Indian venture to be announced by it this month.

This second project will have a 4.27 million sq ft IT special economic zone (IT SEZ) and a 2.6 million sq ft residential and commercial component in Gurgaon, about 45 km away from the business district of Delhi.

AIDT, a private property development fund spearheaded by JTC Corp's fully owned Ascendas, will hold a 51 per cent stake in this project, with the remaining 49 per cent held by Dr Fresh Healthcare Services Pte Ltd, a joint venture between US-based Dr Fresh Inc and Indian consumer goods group Dabur.

The project, which will be managed by Ascendas, will be developed over seven years on a 25.1-hectare freehold site along the Sohna State Highway. 'The development is expected to be executed in phases to meet market demand, with the first phase to start in September 2008,' Ascendas said in a release yesterday.

The IT SEZ component is expected to accommodate more than 40,000 skilled professionals.

The development is poised to be one of Gurgaon's premium business addresses.

AIDT, which undertakes greenfield development projects, has granted a right of first refusal to Singapore-listed Ascendas India Trust to acquire substantially income-producing business space in India.

Earlier this month, AIDT announced a 50:50 joint venture with Indian real estate fund IREO to develop a $290 million project in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu state.

Ascendas is a significant co-investor in AIDT. The other investors include Arcapita of Bahrain and ING Private Banking.

Parkway Life Reit Agrees To Buy Property In Japan

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

It will acquire a distributing facility in Matsudo city for 2.59b yen

PARKWAY Life Reit will soon add an overseas property to its portfolio, following an agreement to buy a distributing facility in Japan for 2.59 billion yen (S$35 million).

The Reit's manager, Parkway Trust Management, yesterday said Parkway Life Reit has agreed to acquire a two-storey building named J-REP Matsudo II with a net lettable area of about 3,240 square metres.

The freehold property, in Chiba prefecture's Matsudo city, offers an initial net yield of 5.3 per cent. Parkway Trust said there is potential to increase the net lettable area as the current ratio of the building's floor-to-land area is only 40 per cent, while the allowable ratio is 200 per cent.

Completed in 2005, the building is currently leased by logistics firm Nippon Express Co, which has an A2 credit rating. Nippon, in turn, has a back-to-back lease with its partner Inverness Medical Japan Co. Inverness uses the property to manufacture, sell and distribute its diagnostic test kits and medical devices.

'We are very excited about Parkway Life Reit's first investment in Japan,' said Parkway Trust Management CEO Justine Wingrove. 'This is a key market for us as the demand for good quality healthcare real estate assets is expected to grow, driven by the fact that by the year 2050, it is predicted that one in three Japanese will be over 65 years of age.'

The master tenancy agreement with Nippon will expire in nine years' time. The property was valued by Colliers Halifax to be worth about 2.619 billion yen, as at last month.

Parkway Life is making the investment through its wholly owned subsidiary Matsudo Investment Pte Ltd. The seller of the property is J-REP Co, whose majority shareholder is Macquarie Goodman Asia.

The investment, to be funded through debt, will increase Parkway Life's gearing to 8 per cent, from 4 per cent. With its 'BBB+' credit rating, the Reit can have about $1.2 billion worth of additional debt capacity.

Parkway Life did not reveal how much the investment will add to its distribution per unit (DPU), only saying it is 'yield-accretive'.

Between last August, when it was listed, and end-December, Parkway Life posted a distributable income of $13.64 million, leading to a DPU of 2.27 cents.

Shares of Parkway Life ended two cents down at $1.19 yesterday.

Theme Park Land In Johor Could Be Free

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

Johor exploring possibility of S'pore-Iskandar train link

Iskandar Malaysia, the mega development region in Johor, may yet steal an edge over Singapore, especially if it offers choice development sites for free.

Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Azman Mokhtar said that the option to offer land to build an anchor theme park for free is a 'possibility'.

Speaking at the Iskandar Malaysia pavilion at Cityscape Asia 2008 yesterday, Mr Azman said: 'The economics of something like that will be taken in toto. You don't just look at it narrowly. Whether it is a loss leader or zero leader is another matter.'

Mr Azman did, however, say that there are many 'permutations' to how a deal with a potential theme park operator could be drawn and explained that this could see Khazanah 'staple' the theme park site together with other development sites as a condition. '(Free theme park land) is a possibility but it will not be a zero,' he added.

Mr Azman also took the opportunity to say reports that Khazanah was talking to theme park operator Walt Disney were inaccurate as the process of selecting an operator was an ongoing process.

He said: 'We have issued memorandum of information to main branded theme park players except for Universal, and this does not preclude local operators.'

The theme park will sit on more than 890ha of land in Iskandar. Giving an indication of a possible theme to the theme park, Mr Azman said it could be an 'eco or nature-based theme park' with no casino component. He added that 'a handful of players' have shown interest.

While the investment value of the anchor theme park has not been revealed, Mr Azman said that since Iskandar (formerly Iskandar Development Region) was relaunched 18 months ago, it has already attracted RM33 billion (S$14.14 billion) worth of investments, representing 70 per cent of its initial five-year target of RM47 billion.

So it is perhaps safe to say that the investment value of the theme park development together with other possible 'stapled' components is not expected to be more than RM14 billion.

Being able to spend capital otherwise set aside for land cost could potentially make the Iskandar theme park competition to be reckoned with. Mr Azman said as much when he noted that the Universal Studios theme park at Singapore's Resorts World at Sentosa is 'relatively small'.

Singapore is nevertheless one of Johor's top three international investors, and Mr Azman reiterated that the plans for Iskandar should be 'complementary'.

Plans to link Johor with Singapore via a rail network further underscores the possible synergy between the two cities.

Also speaking at the Cityscape Asia event was Johor Chief Minister Abdul Ghani bin Othman who said that the state has been exploring the possibility of connecting a mass transit system in Iskandar with the Singapore MRT network.

Adding that it would be 'mutually beneficial', Mr Abdul Ghani revealed that the next ministerial-level meeting on this is likely to take place next month.

Iskandar is expected to be 2.5 times the size of Singapore when completed and investors from Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, Spain and Singapore have already been roped in, while it is also in discussions with investors from India, China and Indonesia.

Some Singapore-based brands that have ventured there include it is JTIC (Jurong Technologies Industrial Corp).

Penalty On The House As Banks Woo Customers

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

Some are repricing home loans lower, others offer to subsidise penalties

As home sales continue to slide, banks are going all out to hang on to their existing home loan borrowers and even poach from their rivals. Some are even offering to pay off the penalties that customers may incur making the switch.

Flexibility has become a byword and new packages are getting more imaginative.

In anticipation of interest rates falling even further, one new DBS home loan package offers two free repricings within 24 months.

At United Overseas Bank (UOB), customers can fix the monthly payments for 36 months regardless of interest rate changes.

At Standard Chartered Bank, borrowers don't even have to call. The UK-based bank has begun repricing home loans downwards for existing customers on variable rate packages.

It is understood to be the first bank to do so given the steep falls in interest rates since last December.

The last time banks were proactive in repricing home loans was in 2005 after interest rates rose sharply in the third quarter of 2004.

This, in turn, led to several rounds of hikes as the period followed two years of record lows when interest rates went below one per cent.

Stanchart's automatic repricing is for customers who are out of their lock-in periods, that is those who do not have to pay a penalty if they repay the loan in full.

'Our customers were notified late last month,' said Dennis Khoo, Stanchart general manager, lending.

'We proactively look at the customer base and take the necessary steps to ensure the pricing is competitive; if not, the competition will take them,' said Mr Khoo.

The repricing can take the form of a new package or a lower rate within the existing contract, he said.

For banks looking to grow their mortgage business in a sluggish property market, refinancing or winning over customers from rivals is critical.

In the first quarter, only 795 new private homes were sold, about half the 1,469 units in the preceding quarter.

'Refinancing business is something all the banks do and in a market situation like this, they have to work harder,' said Kevin Lam, UOB head of loans.

At the same time, efforts to retain customers have gone into overdrive.

'All banks have a dedicated team to retain customers,' said Mr Lam.

Repricing though can be a tricky business for borrowers still within their penalty periods because their banks have yet to recover their original costs of selling those loans.

So banks know that one way to poach customers from rivals is by offering to pay the penalty rate which can be hefty - typically 1-1.5 per cent of the outstanding loan.

'It's difficult because they were heavily subsidised in the first year. It's on a case-by-case basis, it depends on the total relationship as the bank may have to stomach the loss,' said Mr Khoo.

Koh Kar Siong, DBS managing director and head of secured loans, said customers who are considering refinancing need to assess the interest savings and the costs incurred such as legal fees and any penalties or subsidies payable to the financier.

'To help customers with the upfront costs, we do have customised packages that offer penalty subsidies,' said Mr Koh.

One Stanchart customer said she decided to refinance with DBS Bank after the latter offered to subsidise the penalty fee running into $20,000 plus.

'DBS calls it 1.00 per cent penalty subsidy and there is a 36 months pro-rated clawback,' said the customer.

But another DBS borrower, dissatisfied with the repricing terms, said she is switching to Stanchart after the latter countered with even lower rates and threw in a legal subsidy as sweetener.

Gregory Chan, OCBC Bank head of consumer secured lending, said refinancing customers should remember that cheaper offers elsewhere still come with some cost.

'Home-owners looking for refinancing should approach their existing banks first as the total cost of refinancing with another bank is usually relatively higher and has to be offset by lower interest rates,' he said.

Fed Beige Book Says US Economy Slowing, Prices Rising

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that economic conditions were weakening across much of the nation while price pressures from food, fuel and raw materials were increasing.

In its anecdotal Beige Book summary of regional economic conditions, the Fed said manufacturers reported widespread increases in raw material prices and planned to raise selling prices to recover those costs.

'In particular, price increases were consistently reported for food products, fuel and energy products, and many raw materials,' the Fed said. 'More specifically, increases in the price of chemicals, metals, plastics and other petroleum based products were commonly cited,'

In a further sign that inflation pressures could be building, the Fed said despite generally weaker labour markets, there were some reports of wage pressures and continuing shortages of skilled workers.

There were few bright spots in the Fed's summary of economic activity between March 5 and April 7, when the current report by the New York Fed was compiled. It did say tourism was up in several districts, as foreigners took advantage of dollar weakness to save on US vacations.

Housing markets and home construction remained sluggish throughout most of the United States, but the Fed said there were 'few signs of any quickening in the pace of deterioration.' -- REUTERS

Property Developers Up On Bullish Reports

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

Shares of property developers rose after a research report said that a strong Singapore dollar will spur the Singapore property market.

Canadian-based BCA Research said that a firmer Singapore dollar will depress interest rates and propel real estate prices, the Business Times reported on Thursday.

CapitaLand, Southeast Asia's largest developer, soared 4.8 per cent to $6.71 (US$4.95) with 3.4 million shares traded.

Southeast Asia's second-largest developer, City Developments, rose as much as 3.6 per cent to $12.06, with over 450,000 shares traded.

Keppel Land gained 4 per cent to an intraday high of $5.93 with over one million shares changing hands.

According to a Merrill Lynch report, the fall in private homes last month suggested weakness in the sector but it believed property stock prices have factored the slowdown.

Merrill Lynch analysts recommended investors to buy shares of City Developments and CapitaLand and assigned target prices of $16.30 and $7.27, respectively.

'Not only do these companies have the strength to ride through a weak cycle, they will also be in the best position to reap the benefits should the property market pick up again,' Merrill Lynch said in a client note. -- REUTERS

S'pore Dollar At Record Highs

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

The Singapore dollar hit new highs on Thursday after the US dollar sunk further on expectations of renewed interest rate cuts.

At noon, the Singapore unit traded at 1.3512 to one US dollar - off a high of 1.3504 - against 1.3559 on Wednesday.

The euro on Wednesday reached an all-time high against the US currency of 1.5979 dollars.

The greenback has fallen steeply against other world currencies in recent months as US economic growth slowed and fears mounted that the world's largest economy could fall into a recession.

A flurry of interest rate cuts has spurred a dollar sell-off. Investors generally prefer to invest in countries where rates are trending higher so they can reap better returns.

Two US government reports added to the US dollar's woes.

The Labour Department released a monthly snapshot showing that consumer prices rose a modest 0.3 per cent in March amid a spike in energy prices. A separate report from the Commerce Department revealed that the US housing market remains stuck in the doldrums.

Besides the overall weakness of the greenback, Singapore's strong economic fundamentals are also supporting the local currency, said Joseph Capurso, a currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The local unit shot up last week after Singapore's de facto central bank further tightened monetary policy in a bid to address a sharp rise in inflation.

The government said that Singapore's economy grew at an annual 7.2 per cent in the first quarter, faster than the 5.4 per cent expansion recorded in the previous three months. -- AFP

Tianjin Eco-City Draft Master Plan Unveiled

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

It will guide land use, development of 30 sq km site

IN Mandarin, the description is almost poetic. Translated into English, it goes: 'One chain surrounds one core; six wedges to the river and sea; one spine connecting four districts.'

Eco-valley: The master plan aims to make the eco-city a scalable and replicable model that promotes green living, economic development and social harmony

The phrase paints an overall picture of the proposed Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, the most significant collaboration between the governments of Singapore and China since the Suzhou Industrial Park project.

Unveiled by the Ministry of National Development, the draft master plan will guide land use and development of the 30 sq km site, located 40 km from Tianjin city centre.

Drafted with three principles in mind, the master plan aims to make the eco-city a practical, scalable and replicable model that promotes green living, economic development and social harmony for cities in China and elsewhere.

The heart of the green city will consist of an eco-core and eco-chain, conserved wetlands and rehabilitated water bodies. Connecting this core to surrounding rivers and the sea will be six waterways or eco-corridors.

Four main districts will encircle the ecological core, and a light rail will run through the city along an eco-valley, connecting major transit nodes, residential areas, community facilities and commercial centres.

To minimise commuting, residential areas, workplaces, education institutions and recreational spots will be close to the core, a 400m by 400m basic grid called an eco-cell. Various eco-cells will form neighbourhoods, districts, and urban centres.

The eco-city may house 350,000 residents when it is completed in 10 to 15 years.

A three sq km start-up area close to the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area has been marked for completion in the next three to five years.

Keppel Corporation is leading Singapore's effort in the joint venture. 'Keppel is looking at various other international partners and companies - Europeans, Americans and others,' said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

The Qatar Investment Authority has already been roped in, and according to Mr Mah, has announced that it will 'take 10 per cent of the part of the Singapore joint venture.'

Asked if Singapore companies stand to benefit from the eco-city project, Mr Mah said: 'I believe that many companies from Singapore have the expertise, so I think this will be a wonderful opportunity for them to be able to offer that expertise' - in areas such as waste-water treatment and energy development.

The Tianjin municipal government will put up the draft master plan for public consultation in Tianjin next week.

The plan may be refined before it is submitted for approval by the Chinese authorities.

HDB's April Sale Draws 5,700 Applicants For 490 Flats

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 17, 2008

Take up rate is higher because the flats are ready or near completion.

THE Housing Board's April sale of four-room and bigger flats closed on Wednesday with 5,700 applications for 490 flats offered.
The board said the applications and take-up rates for the Bi-monthly sales exercises are higher because the flats offered are completed or nearing completion.

The board noted that while demand is high in its recent sales exercises for its unsold stock, a significant number of applicants do not end up buying a flat. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEO

But it noted that while demand is high in its recent sales exercises for its unsold stock, a significant number of applicants do not end up buying a flat.

The board is currently reviewing the flat application system, following feedback that non-serious applicants are crowding out those with more pressing housing needs. National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan had disclosed this move earlier this month.

HDB flats are now mainly sold via the build-to-order system, where projects are built only when a majority of units are booked. This means buyers have to wait about three years for the flats to be built.

In the next six months from April to September, HDB plans to offer 5,000 new built-to-order (BTO) flats in towns such as Punggol, Sengkang, Woodlands and Bukit Panjang. The next two two BTO launches will be in Punggol and Sengkang at the end of this month.

As HDB's unsold stock has shrunk significantly, the board has been asking buyers to plan ahead and buy under the BTO system. It advised urgent buyers to consider resale flats.

房地产分析员:获准延迟付款计划下出售 近三万私宅或成楼市炸弹

《联合早报》Apr 17, 2008

尽管延迟付款计划(Deferred Payment Scheme)已经在去年10月被撤销,仍有多达2万9000个获准在该计划下出售的私宅单位尚未完工。房地产分析员认为,这些只支付了一二成楼价的单位,很可能威胁到接下来的楼市走向,甚至是整体的购屋信心。




本地房地产上市公司向来不愿提供有关数据。本报向交易所查询,发展商是否有必要申报在延迟付款计划方面的曝险,交易所表示,根据上市守则,上市公司应该自己评估有关资料是否属于重要资讯(material informa- tion)。





德意志银行(Deu- tsche Bank)私人财富管理首席亚洲策略师蔡学敏说:“这是我第一次看到这些数据,不过可惜它们说的不多。”








他指出,实际上一些项目,包括联合工程的One Rochester、吉宝置业的Reflections,以及永泰控股的Duchess Crest,最近被买家拿到二手市场放盘的单位,叫价都已经跌破当初发展商的推出价格。



平均每个单位11人抢购 组屋双月销售申请者抢搭末班车

《联合早报》Apr 17, 2008







对于政府刚在本月初公布的裕廊湖区(Jurong Lake District)发展蓝图是否会对那里的房屋需求起刺激作用,伊斯迈说,这样的效果虽不会马上显现,却是指日可待。




今后,三房式优质组屋(3-Room Premuim)、四房或更大组屋的销售计划改为每半年推出,首个计划今年10月10日展开。原有的“北区/西区”、“东北区”和“已发展组屋区”(established towns)三个组别也将合并。

和双月组屋销售计划不同的是,新销售计划将预留九成单位给首次组屋申请者。除申请小型公寓(studio apartment)外,首次申请者抽签时也享有双倍机会。

Regent Garden En Bloc Will Go Ahead

Source : TODAY, Thursday, April 17, 2008

At first, only 25 of the 31 owners signed on the dotted line. But when developer Allgreen later managed to get the remaining Regent Garden owners on board, it meant the en bloc sale of the condominium had unanimous consent.

That meant the Strata Titles Board should not have heard the objections of the initial group of majority owners and its dismissal in January of the $34-million collective sale was irrelevant, according to the High Court, which gave the green light yesterday for the sale.

The case was a first-of-its-kind in which majority owners, after agreeing last April to the en bloc sale, sued the developer. They argued that Allgreen had overstated the development charge, thus depressing the sale price and alleged that it gave “disproportionately high” proceeds to win over the six erstwhile minority owners.

Allgreen, represented by lawyer Davinder Singh, charged that these claims “were nothing but an attempt to reopen a concluded bargain”.

The High Court ruled that allegations against Allgreen of a breach of contract were without merit and ordered the majority owners to complete the sale on May 16. When contacted, a majority owner who participated in the legal action said that the majority owners would hold a meeting today to discuss their next step.


IR Rivals, North And South

Source : TODAY, Thursday, April 17, 2008

A YEAR before Singapore's first Integrated Resort (IR) at Marina Bay is due to open, potential competition is already brewing to the immediate north and south.

In Malaysia, the government yesterday confirmed it is in talks with not just Walt Disney, but also other theme park operators. The discussions are "preliminary", said spokesman for Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional, Mr Mohd Asuki Abas. Some 890 hectares have been set aside for theme park use.

The park in Johor would compete with Universal Studios at Resorts World at Sentosa. Buzz of a theme park began as far back as 2005 when Malaysia toyed with the idea of wooing Mickey Mouse.

In the south, Malaysia's Landmarks is hoping to set up Indonesia's first legalised casino on Bintan island — details of which were revealed by chief operating officer Lim Boon Soon in a Bloomberg report yesterday. The US$3.1-billion ($4.2-billion) resort aims to compete with the one at Marina Bay here.

With Singapore planning to double the number of overseas visitors to 17 million annually and triple tourism receipts to $30 billion by 2015, Landmarks aims to capture the spill over.

"It could work, though the execution risks are there," said Mr Keith Wee, an analyst at OSK Research. With casinos in Malaysia as well as Singapore, "competition will be tough".

How much of a threat will both developments pose to Singapore?

Industry players Today spoke to said issues of accessibility stand in the way of the upstarts. While Johor has an airport, those in Singapore wanting to cross over may face traffic jams on the Causeway; Bintan has no airport yet and the ferry ride from Singapore takes 55 minutes.

And travellers will likely drop by Singapore before visiting the other two. "It's very unlikely that they will give Singapore a skip as we are a hub and they have to come through," noted Mr Robert Khoo, chief executive officer of National Association of Travel Agents Singapore.

For tourists looking for a complete getaway, Landmarks' Bintan resort will bank on the island's current tourist offerings. The developer will also offer private luxury villas with berthing facilities, condominiums and health spas. Said Mr Lim: "Five years down the road, having a casino won't be special."

Indeed, Resorts World at Sentosa — slated to open in 2010 — features wholesome family treats like Universal Studios' theme park, a maritime museum and a luxury spa.

Such distinguishing features mean that the two resorts are complementary, said an in-bound tour operator.

Tour East's group vice-president for sales and marketing, Ms Judy Lum, said Bintan can be marketed as an adult getaway and Sentosa a family destination.

As for the IR downtown, Marina Bay Sands told Today it will be a "world-class destination not available anywhere else in the region".

A Disneyland across the Causeway could rival Universal Studios as it "would have the domestic mass to support it and it would probably attract Middle Eastern tourists", said Ms Lum.

"But it needs to be well-managed and well-maintained consistently," she qualified, noting that many theme parks there are not.

Concerns about competition may well prove moot. In 2006, when the Malaysian authorities said they had discussed the project with Disney, the American company denied it.

In Indonesia, Landmarks has yet to finalise the terms and conditions of the gaming business with the authorities.

This Eco-City To Show The Way

Source : TODAY, Thursday, April 17, 2008

COULD Singapore spark the green revolution in China, a country recently named in a University of California report as the world's "biggest polluter"?

This possibility is being raised as the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City — the first collaboration of its kind between Singapore and Beijing since the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in 1994 — takes off.

Using the lessons from the Housing and Development Board's 48 years of experience, the planners have opted for a practical approach in the quest to convert the wetlands and rivers of the site — 150 km from Beijing — into a city that is the model of sustainable development.

The best ideas of both countries will go into developing the 30-sq-km site into a living space for 350,000 residents in 10 to 15 years' time, with schools, housing areas, commercial and industrial services.

"We don't want it to be a laboratory experiment because 'cutting edge' suggests that it cannot be replicated elsewhere," said Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan as he unveiled the key features of the draft master plan on Tuesday.

Indeed, the experiment will in turn provide lessons for Singapore. "We are learning from each other but will take the higher of the two standards and try to implement it here," said Mr Mah.

The plan is spearheaded by the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute, and a Singapore planning team led by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Development will be headed by a joint venture between a Singapore group led by Keppel Corporation and Chinese companies.

Said Mr Mah: "It's a major challenge and all of us involved are under no illusions that this is something easy to achieve."

Maintaining the area's greenery while setting aside sufficient land for institutional, commercial and residential use was just one of the challenges.

When completed circa 2023, each block in the eco-city will conform to green building standards to ensure efficient energy use. Renewable energy sources such as solar power will be available, while an efficient public transport network of light rail trains and buses will be in place, alongside extensive cycling and footpaths to discourage motorised transportation.

Like the SIP project, the Tianjin Eco-City is expected to deepen bilateral ties and "provide new platforms for leaders, officials and business people to engage each other", said Mr Mah.

The Tianjin Municipal Government will release the master plan for public consultation next week. Work has commenced on the 3-sq-km start-up area to be completed in three to five years' time.

'It Got So Bad My Neighbour Moved Out'

Source : The Electric New Paper, April 17, 2008

Residents fed-up with noise from card players

# Teens by day
# Retirees by night

FOR some residents of this HDB block, 88 is turning out to be an unlucky number.

Night after night, they have been kept awake by the noise below their block, they said.

People cheering, talking loudly, and pounding on the tables at the void deck affect these residents, who live on the lower floors of Block 88, Redhill Close.

Apparently, some senior citizens and teenagers have made the block an all-day and night hangout because of the card games being played there.

Mr Derrick Chia, a Jalan Rumah Tinggi resident, said: 'Of all the blocks they can meet, they (retirees) choose to meet here, at Block 88. Maybe it's a gamblers 'pantang' (superstition in Malay) because of the block number.'

The number '8' in Cantonese sounds like 'to prosper', so '88' would be doubly prosperous.

And the din has been going on for three years, said a second-storey resident, who wanted to be known only as Madam Daisy.

'Sometimes, especially on weekends, it gets so noisy we have to close our windows. My son manages to ignore the noise by switching on the radio in his room.'

Madam Daisy, a Filipina in her 30s, has been living there for five years.

Said the mother of three children: 'I didn't make any complaints because I understand that sometimes the elderly have nowhere to go or nothing to do. But they should be considerate to others who need to sleep.'

She added: 'My neighbour couldn't stand the noise and decided to move out last year. Their home was directly above one of the tables in the void deck.'

Other neighbours on the second storey also said they have been putting up with the disturbances, though they have not made any complaints to the authorities.

Said Ms Shamini, 22, a resident of the estate for 14 years: 'While the noise can get irritating at night, I'm more fed-up that they (those who loiter at the void decks) urinate and defecate at the walkways and staircase landings. It stinks and we have to pass the spot every day to get to our flats.'

Said another second-storey resident, who did not want to give his name: 'From my room I can even hear music from the teenagers' handphones.'

He also sees the teens sleeping at the void decks when he goes to work in the morning.

He added: 'Senior citizens playing cards is all right as some are residents of this block. But they attract others not from this estate and who do not care about keeping this block clean.'

The New Paper observed the void deck for three days, and witnessed regular card sessions there, played on three tables.

Teenagers hogged the tables in the day, while retirees take over well into the night.

During the three days, the largest turnout was eight people at one table.


When we identified ourselves to one group of players and asked about the card game, they insisted it was some form of memory game.

One of them, who spoke in Malay, said: 'This is not poker or blackjack. We don't even use any money.'

While no money was placed on the table, we saw money changing hands after each round.

Some of the old women playing the game kept small handbags close to their side. Others retrieved money tied in handkerchiefs.

As the game wore on, there were excited shouts from the players.

Some found it hard to contain their enthusiasm, especially after winning.

A resident from Block 89 said the retirees can make better use of their time.

Citing the example of a group of retirees who meet regularly on the fourth storey of her block for sing-a-long sessions, the housewife, 45, who declined to be named, said: 'I just hope the senior citizens are not spending the money they receive from their children.

'Their children would be heartbroken if they know their hard-earned money is wasted this way.'

But Mr Chia thinks otherwise: 'Playing cards is a good way to keep their (senior citizens') minds alert. They also get to mingle with people their own age and not get bored at home.'

He believes the bets placed by retirees are 'harmless'.

'They bet using coins. So how much can they lose? I think it's more about socialising than trying to win big.'

Madam Daisy said she has seen the police making their rounds in the estate.

When that happens, the gamblers 'pretend nothing is happening'.

At press time, the police were not able to comment.

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between March 24th - 29th, 2008

Further US Rate Cuts Seen In Wake Of Inflation, Housing News

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 17, 2008

WASHINGTON - FURTHER Federal Reserve interest rate cuts appeared more likely on Wednesday after government reports showed a modest rise in inflation and that the housing market remained mired in a deep slump.

Many economists expect the US central bank to continue its aggressive rate-cutting campaign at a looming two-day meeting on April 29-30, especially as a growing number of analysts believe the world's largest economy has fallen into a recession.

'For the Federal Reserve this inflation news brings some relief. If inflation expectations are kept under control by such evidence, then the Fed has a freer hand to cut rates,' said Mr Stephen Gallagher, an economist at Societe Generale.

Mr Gallagher raised the prospect of new rate cuts after a Labour Department survey showed consumer prices rose a modest 0.3 per cent in March amid a spike in energy prices.

Looking at inflation pressures more broadly, the report revealed that consumer prices have risen 4.0 per cent in the 12 months to March, partly as crude oil prices have skyrocketed.

Economists said weak labour market conditions in the United States are helping to contain wages and offset a jump in global commodity costs which have triggered inflation fears.

Some analysts say, however, that soaring energy and food costs could stoke inflation in coming months.

'Both remain big question marks in the near future with world supplies of both stretched tight,' Global Insight economist Kenneth Beauchemin said of rising energy and food prices.

The monthly inflation snapshot showed that rising energy costs accounted for much of the rise in consumer prices last month.

Energy costs rose 1.9 per cent in March, partly as natural gas and heating oil prices surged. Gasoline and electricity prices also moved higher.

Oil prices struck fresh record peaks on Wednesday as a key oil futures contract, traded in New York, briefly hit an all-time high of US$115.07 (S$155) a barrel.

Food costs increased a more modest 0.2 per cent last month, as a drop in pork, dairy and fruit prices helped keep overall food costs tethered.

Inflation pressures
Mr Joel Naroff, the president of Naroff Economic Advisors, agreed the inflation report gives the Fed elbow room to cut rates anew, but said inflation pressures are building, especially as a falling dollar makes imports more expensive.

The central bank - led by chairman Ben Bernanke - has slashed its key base rate by three percentage points to 2.25 per cent since September and pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the stressed financial system in a bid to fire up slowing economic growth.

A two-year long housing downturn, a related credit crunch, mounting job cuts and surging gasoline prices have slowed growth to a 0.6 per cent annualised pace in the fourth quarter of last year.

Another government survey showed the housing market remains in the doldrums.

The Commerce Department said that new home construction and applications for permits to build new residential properties tumbled to a 16-year low in March.

Housing starts fell 11.9 per cent to a 947,000-unit annual rate compared with the prior month, marking the lowest level of starts since March 1991.

Analysts said the central bank is facing a dilemma, however, as its slew of rate cuts so far have yet to inject fresh life back into the depressed housing market, although such cuts often take a while to filter through the economy.

'The problem is not the level of mortgage rates but the tightness in the credit markets that is limiting mortgage activity. Lowering rates does very little to convince lenders to lend,' Mr Naroff pointed out.

The housing market is expected to buck up later this year as a result of the rate cuts, but also due to a giant US$168 billion economic stimulus package backed by President George W. Bush. -- AFP

HDB-Style Living In Tianjin Eco-City

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 17, 2008

The $5.8b project is the biggest S'pore-China venture in 15 years

A LANDMARK project to build an ecologically sustainable city from scratch in Tianjin will see a touch of HDB living in northern China.
It will feature an LRT station within walking distance of flats, which will also be close to amenities such as eateries and schools - all familiar sights in HDB estates here - to cut down on the need for transportation.

Many other Singapore touches are likely as the flagship Tianjin eco-city is being modelled on some of Singapore's HDB new towns.

A bold masterplan for the eco-city is being made public today by the National Development Ministry.

China news reports say investments of at least 30 billion yuan (S$5.8 billion) will be pumped into the project.

It is the most significant cooperative project between the two nations in about 15 years. And leaders in both Singapore and China believe that it could serve as an important blueprint for similar future eco-friendly projects.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said the eco-city would have a 'clear Singapore imprint' and would reflect 'a lot of the experience that we have gathered for many years'.

It would pave the way for the further adoption of green features and technologies here, he added. It would also allow government leaders and businessmen from both nations 'to interact...broaden and deepen the engagement and relationship'.

The eco-city, 40km from the port city of Tianjin and 150km south-east of Beijing, will tackle the growing problems of pollution by providing a 'green lung' and eco-corridors with extensive greenery for 110,000 energy-efficient homes.

Singapore's Green Mark scheme - which sets environmental standards for buildings - will also be used.

Green technologies such as water recycling and harnessing waste heat from power stations will be adopted. The LRT will link four major districts, cutting the need for cars. The city will derive 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources as an initial target.

The masterplan will see 30 sq km of marshland transformed into a mini-metropolis. Construction of an initial 3 sq km will begin after a ground-breaking ceremony in Tianjin in July.

The eco-city, first mooted by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong during a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing last April, is the most significant cooperation between the two countries since the Suzhou Industrial Park in the early 1990s.

A boon to Singapore firms, the project will provide opportunities for those with products and services, such as waste and water treatment, to expand into China, said Mr Mah.

About 20 per cent of the eco-city's homes will be public, subsidised housing - an idea put forward by Singapore to ensure the city is made up of residents 'from all walks of life', he said.

He said the project resonates now as 'countries all over the world are facing serious challenges in trying to grow but to do so without damaging the environment'.

The eco-city will be set apart because 'economic development will be balanced with sustainable development that is holistic and pragmatic...and it has to be practical, scaleable, replicable' .

It will be built by a joint venture - a Singapore consortium led by Keppel Corp and a Chinese consortium led by Tianjin TEDA Investment Holdings, with equal stakes.

Mr Mah acknowledged the project as a major challenge:

'We're under no illusions that this is...easy to achieve. but looking at the goodwill, amount of effort and commitment that's going in, I think there is every chance that we will achieve what we set out to do within the timeframe.'

Smart Moves In Home Loan Market

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

PERHAPS US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke can take a leaf from our local bankers when it comes to his nation's sub-prime home loan borrowers who are struggling to meet higher instalments after lenders reset their interest rates higher.

Recently United Overseas Bank (UOB) launched a home loan package called UOB Clear where borrowers can fix their instalments for a three-year period, regardless of interest rate movements.

If the interest rate goes down, more of the principal would be paid off. And if interest rates move higher, a higher amount of the instalment would be used to pay the interest portion.

Fixing the instalment for 36 months is pretty radical, and unheard of, even without the volatility in interest rates.

But customers who use their Central Provident Fund (CPF) money to pay their home loans will appreciate the convenience since it is a hassle to inform the CPF board each time the instalment amount changes.

UOB is banking on the extra service it is offering to retain existing customers, as well as to get new ones.

Banks have been pretty creative in looking for ways to both retain and attract new home loan customers as refinancing has become the only game in town amid a dearth of new home sales.

Mortgages as a product, while low margin, is also relatively risk-free in Singapore, provided the economy continues to enjoy full employment, as it should given the strong economic growth momentum of the first quarter.

The economy surprised with a robust 7.2 per cent gain in the first quarter, against 5.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year.

Savvy borrowers who have begun shopping around for cheaper home loans in light of falling interest rates may also have come across a new feature offered by DBS Bank. One of its packages which pegs the interest rate to the 12-month Sibor, or the interbank interest rate, offers two free repricings within 24 months.

With DBS's huge customer base, it frees its bankers from having to negotiate with impatient borrowers every time interest rates fall. The projection is that the key interest rate here will fall to below one per cent before the year is out. The 3-month Sibor yesterday was 1.36 per cent.

The penchant for home loan borrowers to switch banks every two or three years, especially once the lock-in periods are over, is a constant headache faced by bankers here.

Local banks have a harder time in a falling interest rate environment given their much bigger customer bases.

Even borrowers still within their lock-in periods are demanding their banks reprice their loans lower. Bankers explain that this is a losing proposition because they had secured the funding cost for the existing loan at an earlier higher price. But in the same breadth, they will offer to pay the penalty to lure new refinancing customers from a rival.

Still, the penalties worked into each package actually ensures that banks don't lose out when customers jump ship.

The market is tough but standing still is just not an option.

Price Cuts Help Far East Sell 3 Projects: Sources

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

PROPERTY heavyweight Far East Organization has achieved encouraging sales for three 99-year leasehold suburban projects after it trimmed their prices by about 3-5 per cent shortly after the Chinese New Year period, sources say.

BT understands that the price cuts were aimed at drawing bargain hunters who were keen on the three completed developments - La Casa executive condo in Woodlands, and two private condos, The Lakeshore in Jurong and Hillview Regency in Bukit Batok.

'Far East cut prices because it was pretty sure of the demand for its product. There were bargain hunters out there holding steady jobs and who've enjoyed a few years of good bonuses. Mortgage rates are also low today. But potential buyers had to be given a little incentive, because people expect softer prices as sentiment has weakened,' an industry observer said. 'It would have been pointless for Far East to have cut prices if there had been no demand as that would only have served to weaken confidence,' he added.

Market watchers suggest that other developers could follow suit and help clear the current stalemate between buyers and sellers. After all, a modest price cut by developers in today's environment may not be greeted with panic, as in the 1998 property slump, as the Singapore economy is still growing, and the job market healthy.

Far East is believed to have sold 50-plus units at The Lakeshore, around 20 units at Hillview Regency as well as the last 20-odd units at La Casa following the price cuts. Before the cuts, it had been selling units at The Lakeshore at prices ranging from the high $700 psf region to around $1,000 psf for apartments with views of Jurong Lake. Urban Redevelopment Authority's plans for the location released this month have also boosted interest in the condo. At Hillview Regency, prices range from about $700-plus psf to the high $800s for apartments facing Little Guilin. Units at La Casa were priced at over $500 psf.

Property Market Seen Growing On A Strong Sing Dollar

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

Fast income growth, falling interest rates will keep the sector buoyant, says report

HERE'S some good news for those feeling down after recent bearish reports on the local property market.

Canadian-based BCA Research this week issued a Buy Singapore Property Stocks report, arguing that a strong Singapore dollar will depress interest rates, which will continue to fuel the property market.

It also pointed to strong income growth and other fundamentals - for instance, the transformation of Singapore's economy and favourable supply-demand dynamics - which it says will continue to underpin the Singapore real estate bull market.

'While real estate prices in Singapore have been rising for a while, the pace of appreciation is unlikely to slow much given the solid fundamentals of this market,' BCA Research argues.

'The bull market in property stocks will resume given the positive backdrop of the real estate sector. The valuations of real estate stocks have become very attractive, based on almost all price ratios. Dividend yields for this sector, at 2.1 per cent, compare extremely favourably with domestic bonds that are yielding 1-2 per cent.

'Property stocks have underperformed the Singapore equity benchmark since early 2007 and it appears a trend reversal is under way.'

In its report, the research house notes that the supply-demand dynamics in Singapore's real estate market are positive and valuations are not overly expensive. The government's measures last year have cooled housing activity somewhat, which has dented the performance of real estate stocks, BCA notes.

'Nevertheless, strong income growth and depressed interest rates suggest that the property market in Singapore will stay buoyant,' it adds.

The report also says that 'when measured against the long-term trend of income per capita, property prices are still in a catch-up phase after a major undershoot in the aftermath of the Asian crisis'.

Housing affordability has not yet deteriorated, thanks to fast income growth and a plunge in interest rates. Rental yields have gone up as rent increases have been outpacing property prices.

'Rising rental yields in the wake of plunging interest rates are not sustainable, as the arbitrage opportunity will be exploited,' says BCA. 'Given the supply-demand dynamics in Singapore's real estate market, a further increase in property prices is the most likely scenario at the moment. Despite the three-year dramatic appreciation in property prices, housing supply has not become excessive.'

According to BCA, the supply of residential and office real estate is far from the level at the peak of the last bubble in 1996. It also says the impact of scrapping the Deferred Payment Scheme in slowing activity in the housing market appears to be waning.

The Singapore economy is also unlikely to weaken substantially during this global growth downturn, as it has become more diversified in recent years.

S'pore Apartment Rents Are 9th Highest

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 17, 2008


SINGAPORE is the ninth most expensive place to rent a three-bedroom apartment, according to a survey.

Rents surged by 33 per cent last year, boosted by companies expanding operations at a time of limited supply of property, said the survey report, which was released yesterday.

A three-bedroom unit in popular expatriate areas such as Orchard Road costs about US$4,460 (S$6,046) a month on average to rent, compared with about US$3,364 in 2006.

But Singapore's rents are far below those of Hong Kong, which is the world's most expensive place to rent a three-bedroom apartment.

The annual survey by human resources firm ECA International collected rental costs in 92 locations last September and converted them to US dollars.

A three-bedder in Hong Kong rents for about US$9,700 a month, compared with Asia's average of US$3,820 and a global average of US$2,950.

Moscow was second on the global list, followed by New York, Tokyo, London and Mumbai, with Seoul in seventh place. Caracas in Venezuela took eighth spot, with Singapore one notch ahead of Ho Chi Minh City.

ECA International Hong Kong general manager Lee Quane said demand for high-end apartments in the territory had driven up rents.

If it is a bargain you want, try Karachi in Pakistan, the world's cheapest place to rent an apartment.


S'pore Residential Rentals 5th Highest In Asia: Study

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

But Republic still competitive for firms moving staff into region: ECA

SINGAPORE'S residential rental rates for a three-bedroom apartment have increased by 33 per cent over a year - from 2006 to 2007.

This makes Singapore the fifth most expensive location in terms of residential rentals in Asia and ninth globally, according to a recent survey by ECA International.

ECA International is a knowledge and solutions provider for international human resources professionals.

The annual Accommodation Survey compares rental prices in 92 locations worldwide.

A three-bedroom apartment in a popular expatriate area in Singapore costs about US$4,460 per month in 2007, up from US$3,364 the previous year.

The 33 per cent increase is also the largest in Asia.

Lee Quane, general manager of ECA International Hong Kong, attributes the steep rise to rising demand and limited supply.

'Companies (are) expanding their operations in Singapore together with government initiatives to attract skilled workers from overseas. But at the same time, the supply of property available has been limited by a number of factors such as en bloc purchases by developers, which have exacerbated the situation.'

In Hong Kong, the most expensive location in the world as ranked by the survey, rental is twice that of Singapore's for an equivalent property.

It costs 60 per cent more to rent in Tokyo, the second most expensive location in Asia, than in Singapore, which 'remains a competitive location for companies moving staff into the region', Mr Quane says.

In addition, Mr Quane explains that exchange-rate fluctuations also make a difference.

Rental prices have gone up where the local currency has strengthened against the US dollar, as in Singapore.

Six of the top 10 most expensive locations in the world are in Asia - Hong Kong (1st), Tokyo (4th), Mumbai (6th), Seoul (7th), Singapore (9th) and Ho Chi Minh City (10th). New York (3rd), Moscow (2nd), London (5th) and Caracas (8th) are the other four.

Average rental prices in Asia are around US$3,820, well above the global average of US$2,950.

Some of the survey's biggest rank movements have been experienced in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Doha, but Dubai remains the most expensive location there.

Regent Garden Owners Ordered To Complete En Bloc Sale To Allgreen

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 17, 2008

OWNERS at Regent Garden must complete the collective sale of their condominium after the High Court handed down a landmark decision in favour of developer Allgreen Properties yesterday.

The $34 million sale, which the Strata Titles Board (STB) threw out in late January, must be finalised by May 16.

The decision ends one of the more unusual collective sale disputes.

Initially, 25 owners signed off on the sale in April last year, but they later tried to overturn the deal, claiming, among other things, that the condo was undervalued.

Although the owners had opted for a fixed $34 million price, they were unhappy that a development charge payable by Allgreen turned out to be much lower than expected.

There were six dissenting owners in April, however. They later withdrew their objections, but the case still went to the STB.

The STB usually assesses a sale if there are objections. In this case, however, the sale was now unanimous. Yet, it said it was still required to examine the case, whether objections were filed or not, to satisfy itself that the sale was made in good faith. It axed the deal in January, ruling that it had not been done in good faith.

Allgreen had already asked the High Court for an order to get the majority owners to complete the sale. It argued that the STB had no need to even examine the sale, as all owners had agreed to sell.

The court agreed, ruling that allegations of mistake and breach of contract were without merit and that the STB's decision to halt the sale of the West Coast Road estate was irrelevant. It also ordered the 25 owners to pay Allgreen's costs.

The developer said in a statement last night that the 25 owners who signed the deal had subsequently asked Allgreen to raise its sale price. It refused.

'Allgreen had entered into a solemn contract. It was not prepared on account of the baseless allegations to renegotiate the price,' it said.

The developer also described the decision as a 'victory for the sanctity of contract' and sent a 'strong message' that owners would be held to their bargain.

Allgreen was represented by senior counsel Davinder Singh, while the 25 majority owners were represented by senior counsel Molly Lim.

Court Directs Regent Garden Sale To Allgreen To Proceed

Source : The Business Times, April 17, 2008

THE stop-start en bloc sale of Regent Garden, a 31-unit West Coast Road condominium, to Allgreen Properties looks set to finally go through after the High Court yesterday directed the majority owners to complete the agreement.

The court also ruled that the Strata Titles Board's decision in January to reject the deal was irrelevant and ordered the majority owners to pay costs to Allgreen, the developer.

The agreement with Allgreen, originally signed in April last year, was first delayed when six owners out of the 31 held out.

When the dissenting six finally agreed to sell out by November, the majority owners, who together own 25 units and over 80 per cent of the share value in Regent Garden, did an about turn and tried to abort the deal, arguing that the $34 million sale price was too low partly because of a wrongly estimated $7.2 million development charge.

They wanted the High Court to void the agreement, or alternatively, to award damages or an addition to the sale price.

Allgreen, represented by Davinder Singh of Drew & Napier LLC, itself went to the High Court in mid-January to ask for an order requiring the majority owners to complete the sale deal. The six minority owners joined in the proceedings as well.

But on Jan 30, the Strata Titles Board ruled the sale had not been done in good faith because Regent Garden's valuation was wrong and well below the market price.

Yesterday, Allgreen said in a statement that 'the decision by the High Court is a victory for the sanctity of contract and is a strong message that owners will be held to their bargain'.

'The court's decision is very good news for the entire industry,' said Allgreen.

The majority owners were represented by Molly Lim of Wong Tan & Molly Lim LLC.

Ascendas, Dr Fresh Healthcare In North India Joint Venture

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 16 April 2008

Business space solutions provider Ascendas is investing in North India with a proposed integrated development project in Gurgaon.

It has set up a joint venture with Dr Fresh Healthcare to develop a 62-acre integrated business and residential project.

The two parties are committing a total of S$560 million in investments for the joint venture. Ascendas will own a 51 percent stake, while the rest will be held by Dr Fresh Healthcare.

Ascendas is making the investment through its Ascendas India Development Trust, which undertakes green field development projects.

The Gurgaon integrated project is set in the foothills of Aravalli, about 45 kilometres away from the business district of Delhi.

The project will be developed over seven years and is made up of an IT Special Economic Zone, as well as residential and commercial space.

Construction for the first phase is expected to start in September this year. When fully completed, the project will provide over 4.27 million square feet of space and accommodate over 40,000 skilled professionals.

An additional 2.6 million sq ft of space is planned for residential and commercial uses.

Since its foray into India in 1994, Ascendas has pioneered such projects in Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, and currently has a project under development in Pune. - CNA/so